Editor’s Note: This is the second article of a series highlighting each of the four new principals who were recently hired or promoted. One article will run a day in the series until Saturday.
Susan Wardell describes Ryerson Elementary School as a diamond in the rough.
Wardell is the new principal of the kindergarden through fifth grade instiution. She was the assistant principal at George Washington Middle School for the past four years and taught social studies at Randolph Middle School before that.
It was her passion to see children learn that made her go for the Ryerson job.
"It really is a time of wonderment for them. Everything is new," Wardell said. "It is a time in their lives where they are excited about school and want to do their best."
Every new experience, whether it is learning how to use a computer or going to music class, is an opportunity for students to learn something completely new, and that is amazing to watch, Wardell said.
Wardell said that standardized tests are "necessary evil" becuase a learning benchmark is needed, too often teachers are forced to teach to the tests. They can create a certain level of anxiety, which isn't what education is about.
"It is a wonderful time in students' lives to be influenced by positive teaching and for them to start to determine what their roles in life will be," Wardell said.
While teaching was an extremely gratifiying experience for her, Wardell is looking forward to leading teachers now.
"I'll always be a teacher at heart, but I wanted to affect the greater good," Wardell said. "I'm supporting them as they teach the stuents. It fits who I am better."
Ryerson was particularly hard hit last year during Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. Water and the facility lost power. Some families lost their homes.
But it was the perseverance and gumption that parents and their children showed that Wardell noticed. That is what makes the school special, she said.
"The generosity didn't go unnoticed," Wardell said. "The way everyone rallied to support one another was incredible. A lot of parents lost everything and they still put on a smile, took their kids to school, and told them that everything was going to be alright. That's simply amazing."
Elementary school teachers must present multiple subjects to children throughout the course of a single school day. This can be challenging Wardell said, particuarlly because different students have different learning styles.
Teachers are also instructing students how to work together and other social skills. They're also zipping up students' coats and tying their shoes for them.
"They have to do everything, but they probably get the most satisfaction out of the job as well," Wardell said.
Wardell understands that everything starts with her. She knows that she must be the teachers' biggest supporter.
"The positive energy, effort, and excitement all start with me," she said. "If they do, everything will just naturally flow to others."